Ramesh S. Balsekar- life long devotee if Ramana Maharshi, and disciple of NIsargdatta Maharaj- has been sharing his wisdom with seekers from all walks of life, for the past 20 years. Gently but insistently, he points to the fact that there is nothing anyone can do to hasten his or her spiritual progress, because the individual seeker, the “me “-entity, just does not exist. The outcome of our spiritual all search is not in our hands. Rather, it is in the hands of that power-call it Consciousness or God – which turned us into seekers in the first place. All manifestation is a reflection that same impersonal Consciousness and it is That which is seeking and which does or does not become enlightened, according to Its own ineluctable functioning.
Madhukar Thompson recorded, transcribed and edited all conversations featured in this book. Brimming with earnestness and authenticity, they stand as a vivid testimony to the modern-day seeker and provide invaluable insights into his/her predicament. The text is illustrated with a series of cartoons which underscore key aspects of Sri Balsikar’s teaching. They ensure that the books, and the seeking itself, are lively experiences, full of enjoyment and liberally sprinkled with laughter.
I met Ramesh S. Balsekar for the first time in July, 1993. I rang the doorbell of his apartment in the Warden Road district of Bombay, and Ramesh himself opened the door. He greeted me and led me into his study, offering me a seat on a small bench facing his armchair. After we had made ourselves comfortable, I introduced myself and he asked, “what can I do for you? Why have you come?” “I am seeking enlightenment. Can it be done? Can I do it? Just tell me how! How did you do it?” He answered, “Who is seeking what? When you understand the ‘who’ and the ‘what ‘in your question, your search will come to an end.”
This book is about the who, what, when, where and how of the spiritual search and its fulfillment in final enlightenment, and about the protagonists in this process: the guru, and the disciple or seeker. When I first met Ramesh, I had been seeking spiritual liberation or enlightenment wholeheartedly for fourteen years. Throughout this time, I was driven by the conviction that “I” would be able to make enlightenment –that, in all my time as a seeker, I had never seriously entertained the possibility that I might fail to attain enlightenment.
Ramesh shattered the illusion underlying this conviction at our very first meeting. He sat there, calm and relaxed in his armchair and told me:”The search for Truth and its fulfillment in enlightenment is, like any other event, merely an event I the impersonal functioning of Totality, God, Consciousness or whatever you want to call it. The individual with the sense of personal free will, volition and doership just doesn’t exist. Buddha expresses the same truth with the words.’ Events happen, deeds are being done, but there is no doer thereof.’ Because it so destined, or so willed by God or Consciousness, the occurrence of enlightenment may or may not happen in the case of the body mind organism Madhukar. That is why no power on earth can hasten or hinder the event of enlightenment from happening. Ramana Maharshi used to teach the same truth to the seekers of his time by saying, ‘Your head is already in the tiger’s mouth. There is no escape.”
As Ramesh spoke, the truth of his words became abundantly clear. All doing and seeking was suspended. I simply listened and understood. There is no doer or seeker with an individual separate entity, no “me.” There is merely this body-mind organism named Madhukar, functioning in and as part of Totality. Who, then, could set the goal of enlightenment and strive towards it? Of all the millions of people who, throughout the ages, have earnestly sought liberation, how many have actually made it, or rather: how many have been “made” enlightened by God or Totality? I realized that if God so wills it, I cannot help but become enlightened –even against my own will (which doesn’t exist anyway!)- no matter what I do or don’t do.
Ramesh went on: “The seekser already is what he is seeking. What the seeker is seeking, is seeking! The seeker and his seeking are that which is sought. To understand this fact intuitively in the heart is enlightenment. Understanding is all.” His words made my seeker’s mind spin. It lost all its reference points, and stopped. My heart sang and rang with joy and relief as the Truth sank in; a deep understanding occurred in an instant of oneness beyond time. And yet what I heard that day, and what I understood, did not suffice to make me walk out of Ramesh’s living room never to return. In my case, it turned out that the search had still not come of the complete halt.
“If you want to hear more of the teaching, come tomorrow!” Ramesh invited me. Yes, I wanted to hear more, and how much so! I came to hear him speak the next day, and the day after that. I had then to return to Pune, a city come 180kms south-east Bombay where I was living at the time.bit over the next two years I visited Ramesh perhaps a dozen times in all. I also participated in, and video-recorded, the two week seminars he held at Kovlam Beach, Kerala, India in 1994 and 1995. I made two documentary video films on Ramesh and recorded many of his talks in Bombay either on audio or video. For readers who are unfamiliar with Ramesh’s teaching, I should point out that these talks were not lectures or discourses. His teaching session are more like open discussions, r easy- going conversations in which he and his audience interact, sharing their experiences and clarifying issues related to the spiritual search through questions, anecdotes and comments.
At the end of July 1995, I asked Rameash if he would allow me t move to Bombay and live there, so that I could attend his talks in a daily basis. He agreed. I rented a room near his house in the Malabar Hill area overlooking the ocean and, from September 1995 onwards, I was able to attend all the talks he gave over the next six months. But it soon became clear that I couldn’t just sit there in his room every morning listening to the talks. My gratitude and enthusiasm for the teaching compelled ne to serve Ramesh and his devotees in sessions I attended, providing duplicate tapes for fellow participants when requested. I also made transcripts of some of the talks I had recorded, xeroxed them, and laid them out in Ramesh’s study, so that visiting seekers could take copies if they wished.
These documents, entitled Talks in Bombay were well-received and, seeing this, I suggested to Ramesh that it might be helpful if I compiled the talks into a book. I sought his approval for doing so, and he replied: “I welcome the idea. There will be many repetitions though. But in this kind of talk, repetitions are acceptable. Even the questions will repeat themselves. However, the same question will elicit a different answer each time because they are asked in a different context. “The talks, he said, would often be hammering the same point. But the repetitions they necessarily contained would serve to drive the teachings home to the reader, just as they do for those present listening to them.
On the basis of recordings made between July 1995 and March 1996, two books have been compiled. The present volume Enlightenment May or May Not Happen covers the period July 1995- November 1995; its companion volume Enlightenment? Who Cares! Runs from November 1995 through March 1996.The books document the Advaita Vendanta teachings of Ramesh, as expressed in response to questions regarding meditation, guru –disciple relationship, the spiritual search and its goal- enlightenment. We will find Ramesh affirming that the spiritual search and its goal- enlightenment. We will find Ramesh affirming that the spiritual search has definite stages leading up to, and ending with, enlightenment. He describes it as “a proceeding process of disidentification in which the apparently separate ‘me’-entity, with the sense of individual free will and personal doership, gradually weakens until its final and total dissolution is reached.”
This teaching validates some of the most crucial and recurrent questions which we, as seekers, almost inevitably find ourselves asking as we practices strive and yearn for liberation. Examples of such questions are: “Am I making any progress? Is there any way to know? Are there any signs or milestones along the path which might tell me how I’m doing, how far I’ve come, and how far I am now from my goal?”
To clarify such issues, Rmesh states that the seeking begins with an individual who is convinced that enlightenment is attainable through his or her personal efforts. The desire for freedom compels this individual to follow certain spiritual practices (sadhana ) in the belief that, “Enlightenment must happen”! as a result. Between this stage and the actual occurrence of enlightenment –the two extremes of the spectrum of spiritual search- Ramesh identifies two other stages which show that the process of disidentification is nearing completion. The first of these is the realization the “Enlightenment may or may not happen.” This realization implies complete acceptance of the fac that the seeker, as an individual entity with personal volition and doership, just does not exist. He or she therefore has no power to influence the outcome of the search. The occurrence of enlightenment depends, strictly and entirely, on God’s Will alone. This stage then merges with the penultimate stage prior to enlightenment itself. Ramesh expresses it thus:”If you ask me, ‘What is indicative of the threshold to the imminent occurrence of enlightenment?’, I answer, ‘The attitude and experiential conviction “Enlightenmet? Who cares!”’ From this stage, enlightenment can occur at any moment.”
The process of disidentification is thus seen to involve four stages, with the fourth stage being its culmination in enlightenment. Each of the three stages preceding this event is underlain by a particular conviction or attitude on the part of the seeker, which enables it to be distinguished from the others. The “hallmark” attitudes for the first three stages, prior to enlightenment, are:
1) Enlightenment must happen!
2) Enlightenment may or may not happen.
3) Enlightenment? Who care!
In this book, and in its sequel Enlightenment? Who Cares! Ramesh speaks about these various stages in the spiritual search, and about the process of disidentification in general. It may be heartening for readers to know that, in some cases, quantum leaps are possible; Ramesh readily admits that a seeker might not need to pass through each and every stage of the disidentification process. Enlightenment may happen at any time, form any level, without any precondition; again, it all depends on God’s Will.
While the books do not purport to provide a complete and systematic account of Ramesh’s teaching, they do contain a fairly representative sample of the type of exchanges that took place during his daily morning talks over the period concerned (July 1995-March 1996). Both books have been structured around questions which I personally asked Ramesh, and his replies to them. To establish the proper context for these dialogues, extract featuring interactions between Ramesh’s teaching and other seekers have also been included, as have exchanges on related issues which, I feel, may assist the reader’s understanding of various aspects of Ramesh’s teaching. The extracts contained in each chapter were all recorded on the same day and, like the chapters themselves, they are presented in chronological order, as they unfolded. Chapter 27 (in this volume) and Chapter 33 (in Enlightenment? Who Cares!) each contain the complete unabridged transcript of one of Rames’s morning talks in its entirety.
For the sake of clarity, questions and remarks made by myself and other seekers have been set in italics and, where essential, light editing of grammar and syntax has been undertaken to ensure that the text is readily comprehensible. On occasion, the names of certain participants have been changed so as not to impinge on their personal privacy. Brief translations of Sanskrit words used in the discussions have, where possible, been included in brackets in the text; where necessary, fuller explanations have been given in the Glossary a t he end of the book.
The transcripts are accompanied by a series of cartoons in which I express my personal views and understanding (and, at times, my misunderstanding!) of Ramesh’s teaching. The ideas for each cartoon arose spontaneously while I was transcribing the talks, and at first I paid them littlie heed. As the ideas accumulated, however, I began to realize their potential. Cartoons, after all, are excellent vehicles for swiftly conveying knowledge and messages, and are particularly suited for commenting on events and pointing up the humor underlying them.
The inclusion of these cartoons is thus intended to illustrate and underscore key aspects of the teaching they accompany. They emphasize and clarify, assisting the evolution of the reader’s own understanding. And, of course, the cartoons are also meant to entertain and even occasionally, to make the seeker (and hopefully the guru!) laugh. They provide light-hearted touches of humor, generating amusement and laughter without losing sight of the teaching that informs the. Thus, the cartoons not only reinforce the teaching, they actually hit the bull’s eye, lading the seeker right in the Heart whenever they provoke an outburst of laughter. For it is not possible to think and laugh at the same time- the two events are diametrically opposed to each other. Either one is thinking or one is laughing. What happens when one laughs totally? In such laughter, mind evaporates. The “me,” the ego, the one- who laughs disappears and only laughter remains. In pure laughter, we are our true nature- pure Being, Consciousness, Peace- expressing itself as happiness, lightness, pleasure, ecstasy. In such laughter, we get a glimpse of moksha- spiritual liberation, freedom from the illusion of the “me”.
Numerous enlightened masters from all sorts of spiritual lineages have told how their enlightenment experience was accompanied by indescribable joy and bliss, and by outburst of laughter welling up unstoppably at the recognition of their true nature after all those decades or lifetimes of seeking. You may have read some such accounts yourself, but if you haven’t believed me: the occurrence of enlightenment sounds like a real treat. It’s not something that anyone in their right mind would want to miss out on and, in many cases, I guess it’s what you, dear reader, are really longing to experience.
Well, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news. I’ve been looking at the statistics (such as they are) on the incidence of enlightenment throughout recorded history and, by means of certain rigorously scientific procedures, I have come up with the most up-to date estimates of enlightenment probability yet available. It doesn’t look good, I can tell you. In fact, the chances that you or I will finally “get it” this lifetime are pitifully small. My findings suggest that only 1 in 3,972,913 seekers will become enlightened in this current lifetime. Expressed another way, a seeker such as you or I should realistically expect to search for 24,765,538 years before e enlightenment occurs.
O f course, these figures are indicative estimates only but, I think you’ll agree, they are pretty disheartening. Sorry about that. The good news is t hat this contemporary estimate is a great improvement on that given in the Upanishads. There it is stated that, to attain enlightenment, a given being must first live through no less than 8.4 million lifetimes!
This daunting assessment of the seeker’s chances provides yet another reason for the inclusion of the cartoons. They are dedicated to all those who don’t want to wait any longer for that great outburst of laughter which, it is often said, arises at the movement of enlightenment. Why wait? You are hereby invited to smile. To chuckle and to laugh- here and now. Forget about the future, forget the past! Laughter is a sort of no- man’s land –or better, a no-“me” land- where the seeker and his search, the doer and his goal, all cease to exist. There is no thinker, no thinking, and no thought- time stops. In short, laughter grants us a “free sample” of the enlightened state Sat- Chit- Ananda- Truth, Consciousness, Bliss.
So, of you consider yourself (however sporadically) to be a seeker, I wel-come you here and invite you to immerse yourself in the teachings this book contains. I sincerely hope and trust that, in so doing, you will encounter Truth, illuminating your understanding, and resonating in your Heart as your own direct experience. While you read on, the cartoons are there for your enjoyment. God willing, they may sometimes raise a smile or a laugh that bridges (albeit briefly) the almost infinite, illusory abyss between the seeker and enlightenment itself.
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